By Dave Helgeson
Conserving 12 volt power is one of the many fundamentals of becoming a seasoned boondocker. Replacing the incandescent lights in your RV with LED lights is a great start. It’s as easy as changing a light bulb, literally!
LED lights draw about one-tenth the amperage of the conventional RV bulbs while providing the same or in some cases more light. Many of you are probably already employing this power-saving technique. The real tip worth sharing is where to obtain LED lights while minimizing the pain to the pocketbook. Retail pricing on direct replacement LED bulbs from your local RV dealer or national camping chain can run $10 or more per bulb.
Looking at the distribution system, it is easy to see how a bulb gets so expensive. The bulb is made overseas, then shipped to the U.S. where it sits in a distribution warehouse before being sent to a lighting wholesaler, who then sells it to a RV parts distributor, who then sells it to a RV accessories retailer, who then sells it to you. With handling and profit being added each step along the way it’s no wonder they are pricey.
Skip all the steps and related costs stateside and go straight to the source, no traveling involved! Log onto eBay and order direct replacement bulbs for your RV direct from China. Once on eBay enter “LED 12 volt bulbs” along with the number of the bulb you are looking to replace and you will find pages of options to solve your lighting needs. Skipping over the high-price offerings (U.S. retailers) will bring you to countless Hong Kong sellers offering LED bulbs for a fraction of the cost.
If you are searching for more light than your original bulbs emitted, look for the circuit board type replacements that have 40 or more LEDs mounted on them. These beauties mount to the interior of the fixture using double-back tape and include various adapters allowing them to plug into the most common 12 volt light sockets. Mounting two of them in a common RV light fixture will have you reaching for your sunglasses!
Two additional tips when buying via eBay:
1) Find a seller with a 99% or higher “Positive Feedback.”
2) Plan ahead as your purchase will take 10 – 20 days to ship and clear customs. As a bonus, your package will arrive with colorful foreign postage stamps.
Note: Since this was written 6 years ago, Amazon has also begun carrying 12-volt LED bulbs for ceiling lights. A quick comparison between the national RV chain store and Amazon shows you can buy a two-pack of 1141 LED bulbs from the chain store at $21.99, or a 10-pack on Amazon for $13.49.
In addition many U.S. sellers now offer LED bulbs on eBay.
Install some LEDs prior to your next boondock outing — your batteries will thank you for the savings along with your pocketbook.